Australian Outlook

In this section

Episode 82: Afghanistan evacuation and 9/11 Reflections

10 Sep 2021
By Allan Gyngell AO FAIIA and Dr Darren Lim

Also discussed in this episode: US alliance at 70 and ministerial meetings.

Allan and Darren begin this episode reviewing the frenzied two-week evacuation from Afghanistan. A logistical success or further evidence of a terrible failure? Do the events of the evacuation, which included an ISIS-K suicide bombing and a drone strike that killed civilians, in addition to the over 100,000 evacuated, change their assessment of the merits of withdrawal? What are Australia’s obligations into the future? What will China’s role be?

The Australia-US alliance celebrates its 70th anniversary this week. Having recently updated his book on the history Australian foreign policy, Fear of Abandonment, how is Allan thinking about the role the alliance should be playing in Australian foreign policy today? Darren tries to inject some needed (in his view) international relations theory into public debates on the merits of the alliance. Moreover, Darren (along with co-authors Zack Cooper and Ashley Feng) has published a new report for the United States Studies Centre on the topic of geoeconomics and the alliance, and he explains its motivation and previews the argument. Allan wonders whether we need to hear more from the economics discipline in geoeconomic policy discussions, given that the stakes extend well beyond Australia’s current focus—China’s economic coercion. Darren notes that recent speeches from Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Defence Minister Peter Dutton highlight how economics and security are more deeply intertwined than ever.

Given a spate of recent bilateral meetings and a big international trip now underway for the Foreign and Defence Ministers, Allan and Darren discuss Australia’s diplomatic objectives for the rest of the year. Finally, on the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, they each reflect on their personal memories of the event and what its enduring significance is for Australia in the world.

We thank Mitchell McIntosh for audio editing and Rory Stenning for composing our theme music.

Relevant links

Ezra Klein, “Let’s Not Pretend That the Way We Withdrew From Afghanistan Was the Problem”, New York Times, 26 August 2021:

“Joint Statement on Afghanistan Evacuation Travel Assurances”, 30 August 2021:

Marise Payne, “Transcript Statement to the Senate: Afghanistan”, 23 August 2021:

Simon Jackman, “At 70, most see US alliance as foundation of our security”, United States Studies Centre, 30 August 2021:

UPCOMING EVENT, “Fear of Abandonment: Australia in the World – an update”, Australian Institute of International Affairs, 23 September 2021:

Darren Lim, Zack Cooper and Ashley Feng, “Trust and diversify: A geoeconomic strategy for the Australia-US alliance”, United States Studies Centre, 2 September 2021:

Josh Frydenberg, “Building Resilience and the Return of Strategic Competition”, Keynote Address to the ANU Crawford Leadership Forum, 6 September 2021:

Peter Dutton, “Address to the American Chamber of Commerce in Australia”, 8 September 2021:

Marise Payne and Peter Dutton, “Joint visit to Indonesia, India, the Republic of Korea, and the United States”, Joint Media Release, 8 September 2021:

Benjamin Herscovitch, “Australia’s growing anti-coercion coalition”, Beijing to Canberra and Bank (Newsletter), 30 August 2021:

Rebecca Ananian-Welsh and Keiran Hardy, “Before 9/11, Australia had no counter-terrorism laws, now we have 92 — but are we safer?”, The Conversation, 8 September 2021:

“The Overstory” by Richard Powers, Penguin Australia: